4 Former Soldiers Sentenced To 6,060 Years

GUATEMALA CITY, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Former members of the Guatemalan army were each sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for 201 deaths in a 1982 massacre during the Guatemalan Civil War.

Lt. Carlos Antonio Carias and special forces soldiers Manuel Pop Sun, Reyes Collin Gualip and Daniel Martinez were each sentenced to 30 years for each victim and 30 additional years for crimes against humanity in a Guatemala City court on Tuesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The four men were charged with torturing and killing 201 men, women and children during three days in Dos Erres in 1982.

The defendants maintain that they are innocent and plan to appeal their sentences.

Toy Truck Saves Soldiers From Bomb

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A U.S. Army sergeant says a radio-controlled toy truck given to him by his brother saved the lives of six fellow soldiers in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Fessenden said he’s been using the tiny truck, equipped with a miniature video camera, to run ahead on patrol and look for roadside bombs, ABC News reported Thursday.

Fessenden said he’s has had the truck since 2007, when his brother Ernie, a software engineer in Rochester, Minn., and Kevin Guy, the owner of the Everything Hobby shop in Rochester, rigged it with a wireless video camera and shipped it to him.

Last week, he said, it paid off when he leant the truck to a group of soldiers who used it to check the road ahead on a patrol.

The tiny truck hit a trip wire and set off an estimated 500 pounds of explosives. The six soldiers, controlling the toy in their following Humvee, escaped injury.

Fessenden said the little truck had successfully located four IEDs since he first got it.

“Is it a toy?” he wrote in an e-mail to his brother. “Yeah it is … is it fun? … absolutely … but the guys here take the truck very seriously when out on [a] mission.”

His brother and hobby shop owner Kevin Guy said they’re trying to send Chris a new truck.

“That’s just unreal,” said Guy when he learned of the recent incident. “That’s six mothers that six guys are going home to.”

Guilty Plea In Transgender Attack

TOWSON, Md., Aug. 4 (UPI) — A Maryland woman admitted Thursday she attacked a transgender woman and pleaded guilty to assault and a hate crime.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said he plans to ask for a five-year sentence for Teonna Monae Brown, 19, The Baltimore Sun reported. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Chrissy Polis, 22, was punched and kicked by Brown and a 14-year-old girl in a McDonald’s restaurant in Rosedale outside Baltimore. A videotape of the attack posted on YouTube made the assault a national story.

The 14-year-old girl also pleaded guilty and is being held in a secure juvenile facility.

Namibia Donates $500,000 For Somalia

WINDHOEK, Namibia, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Namibia has pledged $500,000 for famine relief in Somalia, Information Minister Joel Kapaanda announced Thursday.

Kapaanda told Voice of America that Namibian officials hope its action will inspire other African Union countries.

“Our government has decided to support the people of Somalia and of the Horn of Africa,” Kapaanda said. “We felt that although Namibia is a small country with limited resources, we can still make a limited contribution … that can go a long way in mitigating the situation in the Horn.”

Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairman of the African Union Commission, said a summit has been scheduled for Aug. 10 on the situation in the Horn of Africa, where drought and famine, coming on top of civil conflicts, threaten the lives of millions of people. African leaders will discuss development in the region to prevent future crises, Mwencha said.

Levi Aron Fit For Trial; Pleads Not Guilty

NEW YORK, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A man accused of kidnapping, murdering and dismembering an 8-year-old New York boy pleaded not guilty Thursday after he was deemed fit to stand trial.

Levi Aron’s lawyers said during the arraignment they would still consider an insanity defense and requested state Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog keep Aron at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center for further evaluation and for his own safety.

Aron is accused of taking Leiby Kletzky, a Hasidic Jew, after the boy became lost walking home in Brooklyn from a day camp for the first time by himself and asked Aron for directions in July.

Parts of Leiby’s body were later found stuffed in a suitcase and in a trash bin. The boy’s feet were found in Aron’s refrigerator and a set of bloody carving knives was recovered from his kitchen, police said.

Aron lawyer Pierre Bazile told reporters “we believe him to have some psychiatric disorders.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement: “Now that Mr. Aron has been found fit to proceed, we will move forward expeditiously to bring his case to trial. I want to reaffirm that this case will go to trial and that there are absolutely no circumstances which would lead me to accept a plea bargain.”

Aron’s next court appearance is set for Oct. 14. His lawyers said they intend to request a change of venue from Brooklyn.

Sowell Said ‘meaner’ After Service Stint

CLEVELAND, Aug. 4 (UPI) — The half sister of Anthony Sowell testified the convicted Cleveland serial killer became meaner after he returned from a stint in the military.

In the sentencing phase of the trial of Sowell, convicted July 22 for the murder of 11 women in and around his Cleveland-area home, Tressa Garrison said her brother smoked marijuana before going into the military and blamed herself for not helping her brother get off drugs, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Thursday.

“Life just turned him the wrong way and he didn’t know how to come back,” Garrison said.

Garrison said she visited when Sowell served time in prison for attempted rape, and later let him live with her after his release.

He was off drugs then and managed to find work for a while, she said.

“Scrapping didn’t come until after he couldn’t find any work,” Garrison said.

She said she noticed changes in him after he broke up with a girlfriend.

“He couldn’t quite get it together,” Garrison said.

Murder Trial Delayed For Retardation Tests

EL RENO, Okla., Aug. 4 (UPI) — The murder trial of an Oklahoma man accused in five deaths was postponed by a judge after the man’s lawyers argued he may be deemed legally mentally retarded.

A mental-retardation determination would make defendant Joshua Steven Durcho, 28, ineligible for the death penalty on the five counts of first-degree murder, The Oklahoman reported.

Durcho was charged after his girlfriend and her four young children were found dead in their El Reno apartment 25 miles west of Oklahoma City in January 2009. Prosecutors allege Durcho strangled Summer Rust, 25, because she threatened to call police on him and he vowed he would never go back to prison.

At the time of the deaths, there were warrants out for his arrest in a drunken-driving case and a methamphetamine case.

Prosecutors allege Durcho strangled Rust’s three daughters — Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7, and Evynn Garas, 3 — and her son, Teagin Rust, 4, to eliminate them as witnesses.

His lawyers told Canadian County District Judge Gary Miller in July that Durcho scored a 72 on an IQ test administered by a psychologist. The psychologist recommended Durcho get a medical scan because of a possible organic brain injury, they said.

Miller ruled Durcho could be assessed by a nationally recognized expert.

Under Oklahoma law, mental retardation is defined as an IQ score of 70 or less, along with “significant limitations in adaptive functioning.” The impaired functioning must have appeared before the defendant’s 18th birthday.

The lawyers told Miller they had records showing Durcho was in special-education classes before he dropped out of school after the eighth grade.

Jeffs Guilty Of Sexually Assaulting Girls

SAN ANGELO, Texas, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A Texas jury Thursday found polygamist leader Warren Jeffs guilty of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, he had taken as plural wives.

The jury deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours after Jeffs gave a closing argument that consisted of him standing silently for 24 minutes before saying, “I am at peace,” and then standing silently for 2 more minutes before taking his seat, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Jeffs, 55, acted as his own lawyer during the trial.

During their deliberation, the jury asked to listen again to audiotape played during the trial that prosecutors said was of Jeffs having sex with the 12-year-old, and of tape recordings on which the prosecution said Jeffs was giving instruction to his wives on how to have sex with him.

The head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Jeffs was found guilty of one count each of sexual assault of a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child.

In the penalty phase of the trial, which was scheduled to begin after a lunch break Thursday, the jury that delivered the guilty verdict could sentence Jeffs to life in prison, the Tribune reported. Prosecutors said their presentation in the sentencing phase could take as much as two days, the newspaper reported.

Much of the evidence against him came from a raid on the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch that was inspired by a phone call that later proved to be a hoax.

Jeffs called only one defense witness, J.D. Roundy, a member of his church. He asked Roundy to read Mormon writings and talk about the theological basis of polygamy, while prosecutors objected they were irrelevant.

Roundy returned to the witness stand Thursday morning. Judge Barbara Walther cut him off after 30 minutes and then declared the defense case was closed when Jeffs did not call another witness.

Jeffs asked the judge several times Thursday to suspend the trial, arguing his defense had been hampered because he is in jail.

CO Exposures Higher Than Thought

ATLANTA, Aug. 4 (UPI) — From 2000 to 2009, 45 percent of carbon monoxide exposure reported by the National Poison Data System was not treated at a hospital, U.S. officials say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report says these exposures to carbon monoxide would not have been identified by existing surveillance methods based on healthcare administrative records.

The National Poison Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Centers holds more than 50 million poison exposure case records, with more than 2 million new records added each year.

The system holds many types of technical medical information that is searchable in many ways, and it is the only near real-time comprehensive poisoning surveillance database in the United States.

“Carbon dioxide poisoning is a leading cause of unintentional U.S. poisoning deaths, yet it is preventable. The NPDS, a near real-time surveillance system on calls placed to the U.S. poison centers, was used to depict the burden of carbon monoxide exposures and their true health impact and cost to society more accurately,” the report says.

“We found that the demographics of persons managed on-site for carbon monoxide exposure and those treated at a healthcare facility were similar, and that the predominant exposure location — a person’s home — was similar.” This suggests that current prevention efforts for CO poisoning, such as home installation of CO alarms, can protect individuals whether or not their poisoning is severe enough to warrant care at a healthcare facility.

Train Suspected Of Causing Calif. Fires

OAKLEY, Calif., Aug. 4 (UPI) — A series of fires burning along railroad tracks between Oakley and Knightsen, Calif., Thursday was likely caused by a train, officials said.

The fires in Contra Costa County burned grasses on both sides of the tracks, as well as one home and several barns, KGO-TV, San Francisco, reported.

At least four acres were burned, and a plume of black smoke could be seen from miles away. State and county firefighters were on the scene.